On Wednesday October 16th, 33 dedicated Hudson High School students boarded a Minnesota Coach Bus for the 2nd annual Hudson High School Students Today Leaders Forever (STLF) Pay It Forward Tour! The students spent their October break doing service projects across four cities in five days, as we made our way to St. Louis, MO!
We departed from Hudson and made our way to Waterloo, IA, where we spent our first night playing games and doing icebreaker activities (including “building” a human roller coaster and lawnmower!). The next morning we made our way to the Waterloo Salvation Army, where we were broken into groups to do a number of different projects. The projects included cleaning the kitchen, cleaning toys in the nursery, helping organize and clean the garage, and helping with tasks at the Salvation Army’s thrift shop and battered women’s shelter. All of us then came back together to help organize and hang coats for the Salvation Army’s coat drive! Our leaders did more work in a few hours than the staff would have been able to do in a week! Talk about hard workers!
University of Northern Iowa
Later that afternoon we arrived at the University of Northern Iowa campus, where students learned “The Interlude” (school dance) and explored the beautiful campus all while competing in a scavenger hunt that taught them about the campus and college life!
Next on our list of destinations was Galesburg, IL, where students gave their all while helping the Safe Harbor Family Crisis Center. We completely transformed the garage, which had been filled to the brim with donations. We sorted through clothes, toys, books, and furniture and helped prepare items to be taken to their thrift shop! Some students helped clean out closets and sort through food donations, while others helped prepare materials for upcoming events. Students were given an opportunity to understand the impact of domestic violence and view shirts created by victims, telling their story. It was an emotional learning experience that struck chords with many student leaders. It made our time there even more special knowing we were helping these survivors.
After leaving the Safe Harbor Family Crisis Center, we made our way to Springfield, IL. Of course we had to make a pit stop at the Illinois State Capitol and get our picture with Abraham Lincoln and the beautiful fountains!
After taking a quick pit stop at the Illinois State Capitol to get our picture with Abraham Lincoln, we ended our day of service at the Inner City Mission, a homeless shelter that provides shelter, sustenance and education to homeless children, their parents, and single women. The shelter relies completely on individual donations and receives no state funding. Our leaders made bracelets and played games with the children and spoke with teenagers and adults about their experiences. It was an incredible way for students to put a face to the issues of homelessness and poverty and a truly humbling experience.
St. Louis, MO
The next morning, we woke up bright and early to head out to our last service project of the tour! We made our way to St. Louis, where we met up with three other high school tours from Minnesota (St. Paul, Wayzata and Minnetonka). All four buses helped direct and cheer on participants of the Second Wind Lung Walk, which benefits the Second Wind Lung Transplant Association of St. Louis. All of the STLFers had the chance to meet new people and share their stories from the tour before heading to Downtown St. Louis where we visited the St. Louis Arch and explored the downtown area!
We ended our last night on the tour at the Marriot hotel and spent the night sharing stories, playing games and celebrating our week of service! Students from all of the buses, including Mitchel Rasmussen and Bridget Donahue from HHS, had the opportunity to share how the Pay It Forward tour impacted their life and their experience on the tour. Seeing a room filled with student leaders who all volunteered to come on the service trip and hearing their stories was definitely an inspiring moment!
This tour was an empowering and life changing event for everyone who was a part of it. The student leaders who were part of the tour came back inspired, empowered, and motivated to continue to pay it forward in the Hudson community. It was truly a bonding experience for all involved, from the STLF Core Leaders and our student leaders, to the communities we served.
A huge thank you to the parents for allowing your children to be part of this experience and empowering them to leaders in their community. Thank you to Students Today Leaders Forever for continuing to provide students with this opportunity to explore the country and their leadership potential. Our Core Leaders - Maggie, Mike, Will, Nick and Robbie for being so awesome and getting to know all of the student leaders.
And last, but certainly not least, a huge thank you to all of our leaders: Ian Arthur, Mattie Baumann, Amanda Carey, Bridget Donahue, Emma Dunn, Kayla Erickson, Madi Goodman, Rita Haney, Tanner Hanson, Rissy Hines, Jordan Hunt, Alyssa Iverson, Ethan Lo, Brian Lucksinger, Clara Malanaphy, Brianna Manke, Alexa Marlow, Annika McPherson, Madison Miller, Anna Parenteau, Karlye Peterson, Mitchell Rasmussen, Stephanie Seymour, Callie Thielke, Lindsay Tvedt, Sarah Van Sickle, Jill Wanner, Clare Weber, Alicia White,Curtis Whitwam, Deena Whitwam, Quinn Zacharias and Claire Zais. Without all of you, this tour would not have been possible. Your dedication, respect and compassion allowed everyone to come together and turn this tour into a wonderful experience and help so many people in the communities we visited.